By Dianne Witte
On December 10th we celebrate the 71st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. It came as a result of the experiences of the Second World War. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict to happen. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere.
A colorful illustrated edition of these rights is available at:
While space does not permit reproducing all 30 of them, I would like to share two that speak to me today.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
The US, as a participant in the UN General Assembly, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with only eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting. That is truly remarkable. It shows the level of commitment and will they brought to the table at that time. Now, as a country we have an obligation to stand by our word and strive to do our best to live up to our commitments.
This document provides a vision. It doesn’t mean we are going to fulfill it explicitly. It functions for our country as the Ten Commandments do for Christians, or the Core Values for a business, or wedding vows for a couple, or a Statement of Purpose and Goals for an individual. It’s a commitment to aspire to do our best.
I am saddened and disappointed to learn that the United States of America (our country) since May, 2018 has stopped cooperating with the United Nations in investigation of human rights violations and has withdrawn from the UN human rights council. In addition, we implemented an array of anti-immigration policies and placed children in detention, separating them from their parents. Do these actions signal we are no longer committed to “never again” allow the atrocities of WWII? Can we as citizens of good conscience who made that pledge, look away from the marginalization and demonization of humans who seek asylum, much like the Jews experienced in Stalin’s Germany?
The key word in this UDHR is human. Our country is not human, it can’t be, that is not its function. It’s a system of government. That means its citizens must provide the human factor for it, as laid out in our Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights. If we don’t act, we can expect the country to act inhumanely. But, we can put humanity back into our country by making it a priority as an individual.
We have been led to believe we have no power as individuals. But that’s not true. We have as much power as we choose to take. First, we must acknowledge we have it and then act in a way that serves all humans.
We might start by having our own vision statement or declaration of purpose that has a higher vision and ideals, not so much how we might prosper personally. You notice all the statements in the UDHR are directed towards “all” or “everyone.” Look at those “rights” from a personal perspective. Do you believe them? Are they something you can get on board with? Well, it might be a bit cumbersome to adopt that lengthy narrative as our individual purpose, so perhaps we could simplify it. How about “I care about humanity and intend to express that caring through a life of active service” or “I intend to act with goodwill in all my daily activities.” Or put it more simply, “I care and I intend to make things better for all humanity.” Well, you decide how you want to phrase it, what feels comfortable to you. Then, say it daily for 30 days, to establish it as a new habit and even tweak it as you go. I guarantee, you will see yourself and the world differently after that little effort in that period of time.
There is a community of support out there called the New Group of World Servers. They are eager to welcome you to share in making this a better country and world for all. The website at https://festivalweek.org/ lists resources and ideas to support your vision. Together we can make it a better world.